Delicious as Singaporean food is, there is so much more to the Singaporean food scene! Here is a list of my top 11 activities in for Singapore foodies, beyond eating.
- Pulau Ubin Cookery Trail
- Singapore Foraging Tour
- Food Playground
- Palate Sensations
- Singapore Food and Art Tour
- One Kind House
- One Kueh at a Time
- Edible Garden City
- Fish for your own dinner at Smith Marine Floating Restaurant
- Making nyonya dumplings with Kim Choo Kueh Chang
- Singapore Cookbook Club - coming soon
- Where I like to Eat
When people talk about Singapore, they never fail to mention the good food that's grown out of the melting pot of cultures here: the cheap and delicious street food found in food courts and hawker centres (recently added to the UNESCO Heritage list), the many Michelin star restaurants (as well as the world's cheapest Michelin-star meal) etc.
However, delicious as our food is, there is so much more to the Singaporean food scene than just finding the best food stalls to eat at!
Now that Singapore has re-opened, here's a list of my top 11 activities in for Singapore foodies, beyond eating:
Pulau Ubin Cookery Trail
- people interested in learning more about Singapore's useful herbs and plants
- Malay food lovers
- people who want to do something different
- those who want to learn to make the local cuisine
Not suggested if you:
- have problems walking
- hate the heat and mosquitoes (nothing is air conditioned on this trip! Although I loathe hot weather, I would be happy to go on this little adventure, anytime!)
This is 1 of my favourite activities for food lovers on this list! You pretty much go back in time to the Singapore of the 40s and 50s: we took a boat to Pulau Ubin (click here to see the boat ride) , 1 of Singapore's 65 islands, then drove to an old kampong (traditional Singaporean wooden house) where the cooking lesson was held.
There we were greeted by the owner of the house, who had grown up on Pulau Ubin but now lives on the Singaporean mainland, with traditional Malay snacks.
There was an interesting short talk on the culinary and medicinal properties of various common plants growing in Singapore: for example, did you know that pre-"because you're worth it" (a reference to L'Oreal, in case you've never seen the advertisement), people used to dye their hair using banana peels?
Something to try with the leftovers the next time you make banana bread! I love making the most of kitchen scraps, which is why I have this section dedicated to recipes that use kitchen leftovers on my blog.
In addition, the leaves of one of Singapore's most common ferns, the bird's nest fern, were previously used to help with labour pains! The young leaves are still eaten in Taiwan today (they're considered "Shan cai" or mountain veggies.) Fascinating, isn't it?
After that, the guide took us on a foraging walk around the very small island, gathering some herbs which we later added to the Nasi Ulam (a Malay rice salad) that we made, such as cashew leaves and turmeric leaves. (Do note foraging is illegal in Singapore but our guide has a special permit. If you're looking for turmeric alternatives, click here.)
At the end of the walk, we went back to the kampong and, in teams of 2-4, assembled our nasi ulam, fried some prawns in butter and curry leaves before ending with a cooling dessert of ice kacang made using an old school ice grater.
Note: curry leaves are a very useful herb- they're easy to grow and you can make so many things with them. Click here for a list of delicious curry leaf recipes!
Unfortunately, the Pulau Ubin Cooking Trail isn't held often enough for my liking! (It is also very affordable- all of the above for only S$50!) To check if there's 1 when you're in town, visit the Malay Heritage Centre. (The centre, which is located in Kampong Glam, is where the tour commences.)
Singapore Foraging Tour
An experienced guide will take you around Botanic Gardens, Dempsey and an urban farm to share foraging knowledge with you.
I previously did a foraging tour in London which was fascinating- the guide used to be a homeless drug addict but thanks to his foraging has turned his life around and was even showcased on national TV!- and we ate what we foraged. He even ate some of the plants that are known to be poisonous- apparently certain bits are edible but I chose to skip trying those LOL
Anyway, unlike my London foraging tour, sadly this tour is purely informative so you won't actually be doing any foraging (as plucking fruits and what not in SG is apparently illegal). It ends with some tea and cake at Dempsey, 1 of the favourite food destinations of expats in Singapore.
I enjoyed the tour, but note that the sun is simply scorching- you're walking in the heat till about 12- and my friends and I got quite burned despite the sun hats and sun block.
Also, I'd suggest booking last minute as the company isn't the most... shall we say, flexible? (We booked and were offered only 1 date- take it or leave it- if you left it, there goes the money you've paid!)
- people who want to have fun, eat and do good at the same time (Food Playground is a social enterprise that seeks to empower Mums and bring them back to the workforce)
- first time visitors unfamiliar with Singaporean cuisine who want to find out more
- people who like to meet interesting people from all over (I attended the class with a couple from Alaska (as well as a few other tourists)- the husband is a wealth manager and told me that apparently Alaskan fishermen are very affluent so the private banking scene in Alaska is quite lively! I would never have known!)
Not suitable if you:
- .... don't want to meet tourists...? (I was the only local when I attended- but you can tell I'm struggling to think of negatives!)
- want an intensive cooking class (think Cordon Bleu) with lots of science and theory behind the cooking - this is more a home cooking style class
The session was held at a historic shophouse in Chinatown (Smith Street aI think) and started with an introduction to Singaporean food (this is geared towards tourists: for example, we were quizzed on the difference between Singaporean and Western carrot cake, the former being savoury and the latter, a dessert, of course.
Once we got down to cooking, it was 2 to an induction cooker but we both had the opportunity to cook. Together with a lovely Japanese lady, I made chicken Curry, ang ku kueh (wrapped by yours truly) and roti jalal (netting pattern designed by me!).
After we'd stuffed ourselves on our cooking, the class came to a close and Food Playground had another surprise in store: we were all allowed to choose from either an ang ku kueh mould or a roti jalal pouring cup.
Very thoughtful, I must say, as it ensured that we could continue our cooking adventures at home without having to hunt down potentially difficult-to-find (for tourists) kitchen tools. (I chose the cup and, yes, I have used it!)
Note: I actually had to cancel my first booking as something came up, and the cancellation process was super easy and fuss-free. All in all, it was a 5-star experience and I definitely want to return to try the cooking classes for the other dishes! (Food Playground has a fixed schedule where each day of the week corresponds with cooking a different menu)
- Recommended if you:
- want to learn as many Singaporean dishes as possible (we made 6 dishes in 1 session)
- are looking for good Singaporean hawker recipes (I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of the food we cooked- I had not been expecting the food to be hawker quality but I must say they were all- except the laksa, which needed more depth- as good as anything I'd eaten in a food court. If you want the secret, it's because we used pork lard to cook and not vegetable oil! However, if you don't take pork, here are some alternatives to lard (for both cooking and baking.))
Not recommended for:
- people who want an in-depth cooking experience (the Palate Sensations cooking class was run more like a demonstration with opportunities for participation, something I was quite disappointed by- all of the great food were made as a group with the instructor sharing 1 cooker so we didn't get to cook any dish from start to finish.)
Note: the class targets locals, not tourists- there is no intro to the foods if you're not familiar with them.
Our instructor, Chef Low, was very generous both with her advice and resources- I mentioned that a friend had asked me to make laksa without prawns and she kindly passed me some vegetarian shrimp to experiment with!
Apparently, her Grant Aunt used to cook for the Thai Royal Family! (I would love to try her Thai cooking class!) Under her expert guidance, we cooked these 6 dishes collectively:
- Singapore Hokkien Mee
- Singapore Hainanese Chicken Rice (I haven't shared a recipe for this yet but I did use some of my takeaways from the session in my Singapore Hainanese Chicken Rice Porridge recipe.)
- Chwee Kueh
- Singapore carrot cake (both black and white)
- Laksa (This was the only dish I did not take a photo of- maybe because it was my least favourite of the 6!)
For example, when cooking the chicken rice, Chef Low first showed us how to poach the chicken before Isabel, the French lady in our class, showed us how the French debone their poulet.
Another classmate blitzed the chili ingredients in the blender, whilst I toasted the rice in chicken fat, pandan and other aromatics after which the rice was cooked in the water that had been used to poach the chicken. I was rather disappointed to find that we added Maggi chicken seasoning to the stock as all hawkers do, or so I am told.
Singapore Food and Art Tour
Ideal for: anyone who wants to find out more about Singapore!
I actually met PS and her sister on the Pulau Ubin Cookery tour I mentioned above and was really inspired to hear that she'd left a career in consultancy to start Everyday Tour Company, which conducts several Singaporean tours such as a food and art tour of Singapore, a HDB tour and an architecture tour. You can even do a Crazy Rich Asian tour without leaving the comfort of your own home- it's conducted via Zoom and has even been featured on New York Times!
Check out her Instagram account for some photos of what you may see on the tours, such as the one shown above- it's a love letter to Singapore 🙂
One Kind House
A modern day kampung where you harvest your own food from their garden before coooking and eating together. The write-up is a little sparse as I didn't manage to attend the session at One Kind House before COVID hit, although it is something I am very much looking forward to trying!
One Kueh at a Time
- soon kueh lovers
- appreciators of local food and drink
- fans of Singapore heritage food
Situated in an industrial estate- opposite my Mom's office actually!- One Kueh at a Time serves the best soon kuehs I've ever tried.
Smaller than the typical soon kueh, each one has skin so thin it's translucent and chock-full of goodness. (My favourite flavours are their regular and hae bee hiam soon kueh.)
Sharing a building with Lim Chee Guan, a famous ba kwa (Singaporean pork jerky) seller, One Kueh at a Time is run by Nick and Karen who have created a very cosy cafe- the ambience and focus on local food & drink remind me of Maltby Spa Market in London (I used to live a 15 minute walk away- fun times!)
When my friend asked for cold brew coffee, which they didn't have, Karen kindly offered her some of the coffee she had made for herself. It felt more like visiting a friend's home and nothing like the soulless experience of a chain cafe! I definitely recommend this cafe as a great place to chill out and relax over afternoon tea!
Note: Check the opening hours on Google before you head over. When I visited, I didn't realise they don't open on Mondays! (It can be a trek to get there if you don't have a car but I'm sure that won't stop true Singapore foodies 🙂 (there is a bus stop outside but no MRT station close-by.))
Edible Garden City
Urban farming has been all over the news and Edible Garden City is one of the forerunners of the movement. Look out for their workshops which have included making your own tea, creating an edible flower arrangement and reducing food waste by upcycling orange skins into fertiliser and cleaners.
Fish for your own dinner at Smith Marine Floating Restaurant
I have to confess, I haven't actually been to the Smith Marine restaurant but this modern kelong is on my list of to-visit places. It's quite a trek as you need to take a ferry to their restaurant where you'll have the opportunity to catch your own dinner (it's a "sure-catch" pond so don't expect anything too exciting).
According to my cousin who has been, Smith Marine is recommended for the adventure and freshness of the seafood rather than the quality of the cooking (deemed to be average).
Making nyonya dumplings with Kim Choo Kueh Chang
A part hands-on, part demo session, you get to eat your dumplings at the end. Unfortunately, you need to form your own group of 5 to take this Kim Choo Kueh Chang class, which is why I've not been yet! I do stop by to buy their kueh whenever I'm in Katong though- don't forget to visit Rumah Bebe next door, which is where 1 of my true blue Peranakan besties gets her produce! (She's 1 of the best cooks I know too.)
Singapore Cookbook Club - coming soon
1 of my favourite memories of my time in London was the Borough Market Cookbook Club. Every few months- or whenever I was fortunate enough to get a ticket, really!- a group of us would gather at Borough Market, each bringing along a dish we'd cooked from the same cookbook.
1 time it was Jamie Oliver's "The Naked Chef", another it was Sybil Kapoor's "Sight, Smell, Touch, Taste, Sound" , and yet another it was Julia Child's "Mastering the Art of French Cooking" and so on. It was a great way of seeing if one liked enough recipes before investing in the cookbook, trying dishes one would not cook at home- I remember a delicious rabbit, something I've never even seen in my kitchen- and just having a good chat with other food lovers. There were even people who'd come to London on holiday (from Japan and America) and joined us- how cool is that?
Part of the amazing thing about living overseas is learning from your experience there which is why I've decided to start my own cookbook club in Singapore!
Plans were derailed by COVID and the limit on the number of people who could gather but both Marshall Cavendish and Epigram (publishers of Singaporean cookbooks) have expressed interest in collaborating so do join the Facebook group for updates on when the first meeting will be!
PS If you're a Singaporean/ Singapore-based recipe food blogger looking for a community, do email me at greedygirlgourmet at gmail dot com to join our Whatsapp group of Singapore foodies!
Where I like to Eat
Before I go, whilst not the point of this post, if you're looking for the best restaurants and hawker centers to eat at in Singapore, here are some of my favourites:
- Tiong Bahru food centre - don't forget to walk around the area to check out the per-war flats in the area. (These are considered to be very old in Singapore)
- Tekka market- good food + you can get lots of hard-to-find produce in the wet market below, such as freshly squeezed coconut milk and buah keluak (used in Peranakan cooking)
- Hjh Maimunah near Bugis - they sell some bottled sauces now, so you can also bring some home with you.
- For fancier local food, I like Po at Warehouse Hotel, although the acoustics can be deafening, if your fellow dinners are on the rowdy side.
- For Chinese fine dining, I like Summer Palace at Regent Hotel and Jiang Nan Chun at Four Seasons Hotel. The food is great and the service is also very good at both places. (Before I left for University in Scotland, the manager of Jiang Nan Chun would give me the hotel's XO chilli and bird's nest mooncakes to bring over. Sadly, he's now retired and returned to Malaysia.)
- And many more as this is a non-comprehensive list!
Have I missed out on any of your favourite food-related activities in Singapore? If so, let me know in the comments. 🙂 I'd love to hear from fellow Singapore foodies!